“For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” -Matthew 26:11
Perhaps Christmas is a day your mind is focused on family rather than the poor; then again, maybe you really are thinking of the poor and serving them on a day like today. This day is Christmas. Is it in any way a reminder to you of the poor? Would you, if you were alive then, have gone to a poor stable to worship the Baby on that first Christmas night? Of course, you would have required an invitation like those poor shepherds received, and you would have had to have been looking eagerly for the Messiah to come like Simeon and Anna.
Jesus said, “The poor you always have with you.” The utopia of a poor-less society will not be accomplished until Jesus returns. In other words, every generation prior to the Second Coming will have the poor to assist and to serve. This truth that Jesus reminds us of – that the poor will always be there – does not mitigate in any way whatsoever against Jesus’ command to “always remember the poor.” You cannot say, “Well, if the poor will always be there, why should we help a helpless condition?”
There is a non-wavering, God-given command to provide continual sacrificial gifts to the poor in any land, along with the biblical instruction to “wisely consider the poor man’s case.” As poor are helped out of poverty, they are replaced by more poor needing help and salvation. Such a supply, according to Jesus, will never abate.
Jesus knew poverty; He experienced such. He was born poor in a stable, and His first visitors were poor shepherds. The second recorded visitors provided the royal family with necessary gifts to sustain their flight into Egypt for the protection of Jesus from violent murder by a powerful king. Still, Jesus never experienced physical wealth in His entire earthly sojourn.
The Bible proclaims that “Jesus became poor so that you, through His poverty, might become rich.” There are two dimensions of poverty: Spiritual poverty is clearly the worst kind, and physical poverty is a distant second. You can become spiritually rich through Christ, while not becoming rich physically. You can be rich physically but a pauper spiritually. In fact, the physically rich are most often spiritually starving.
It is no coincidence that Jesus’ first visitors were poor shepherds. I believe God was purposely teaching us by orchestrating His Son’s birth in a poor stable environment and bringing the poor shepherds as His first visitors, representing all of us, either physically poor or spiritually poor. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Months, possibly a year or more later, He brought Gentile visitors of wealth to worship a still poor Jesus.
Psalm 49 clearly links rich and poor together in their similarities. They are equal in that both experience death “empty-handed.” The rich leave life the same as the poor: naked. Both rich and poor are created by the same God, both are creatures of the One Creator, both answer for similar spiritual conditions to the same Master. Rich and poor alike face the same Judge, however, a judgment which will assuredly judge just how the rich used their wealth, which is a very heavy responsibility.
The first Christmas differs greatly from the commercialization of present-day Christmases. Poverty accompanied the first, wealth the present. There are still homeless in the world of Christmas today though. Jesus’ pronouncement about the “always poor” holds true. There will always be the need and opportunity to share your blessings with the poor. By making you less “rich,” such giving will cause your bank account in spiritual assets to increase. You will believe this in doing it.
You should look forward to conversing with the poor shepherds who first fell to their knees beside the feed trough of hay in a smelly stable. Theirs was the richest of experiences, a treasure which easily lasted a lifetime and on into eternity. You might think, “What was so great about a small group of poor people seeing another baby so recently removed from the womb? There are millions upon millions of such experiences in the world down through the ages!”
Yes, but there was only one such birth in the history of the world, and the One whom these shepherds were privileged to adore at His birth became their eternal Savior – their Savior and yours for eternity. These poor shepherds will talk with and rejoice with Him and with you about this incredible experience in eternity. Though some of the world think it so, this was no tiny event in a small obscure corner of history!
Just consider again the words of the angel-chorus above those shepherds in the night sky announcing this birth to them; of all people in history, they were immeasurably blessed to hear and go and witness! “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among those with whom He is pleased!” Who knows, but I am positively wondering if this cantata is not like all cantatas, taking a small phrase and repeating it over and over in glorious crescendo; these are such magnificent words.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.”
(First verse of Isaac Watts’ carol, “Joy to the World,” 1719)
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